As the famous saying goes, ‘give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.’ The fame and use of this old Chinese proverb just show the importance of seafood in cultures across the globe. Since mankind taught themselves how to fish, seafood has been a staple and favourite of the human diet – and with so many different types of seafood and ways to prepare the food, the possibilities are almost endless.
Seafood has been in abundance in our oceans since the beginning of time and humans began to harvest and eat Seafood very early on. Although the hunter-gatherer rarely stayed in one place for long due to survival needs, being near a source of fish would always have been a consideration as it was a relatively easy method for sustenance. Archaeological evidence found in South Africa dating back over 160,000 years ago proves that man was consuming seafood this long ago, and analysis of human remains 40,000 years old from Asia highlight that they were consistency consuming seafood too. More evidence can be found by looking at the remains of Ancient Egypt, drawings and documents show the Egyptians regularly fished and had developed tools and methods, with the river Nile being full of fresh fish there is even evidence that fishing was a hobby way back in these times as well. Ancient civilizations also knew how to make the most out of Seafood and would use the remaining bones for a multitude of purposes including; jewellery, decoration and writing implements.
The history of seafood in England is slightly different, with seafood being seeing as a lesser alternative to meat during the Medieval times – feasts were very much centred around beef and pork, with fish as a side-dish. This was very different around the coastal areas, which makes sense as seafood would be much fresher tasting here as it would have taken days to transport to the landlocked counties. Having said this, eating fish fresh was not the only way it was consumed, large amounts of the consumed fish would have been salted or dried and sometimes smoked, which would have meant it could travel far and wide.
Japanese History of Seafood
Japan has a rich culture of seafood that is steeped in History – being very famous for Sushi, the origins of how this increasingly popular dish developed are very interesting. In ancient Japan fish was preserved in fermented rice, the Japanese would then discard the rice and eat the fish, which was an integral staple of the diet. Later this dish developed so that the rice could be consumed with the fish at the same time, vinegar and vegetables were added to the rice for taste and became the base for the Sushi that is consumed today. Different regions would develop new and exciting combinations of flavours which helped to shape the state of seafood consumption in Japan for hundreds of years, with hundreds of varieties available – a list of the most popular can be found here.